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‘The Sandman’ Creator Shares Michael Jackson Vied for the Lead Role

Photo: Observer

The Neil Gaiman-created Sandman has been building buzz for quite some time now.

Since the early 1990s, there has been talk of a possible adaptation of the hit fantasy series. At some point in 2016, after Joseph Gordon-Levitt was hired as the titular Lord of Dreams that too disappeared. 

Though the role ultimately went to Tom Sturridge, Gaiman recently revealed in an episode of Happy Sad Confused that Gordon-Levitt wasn’t the only star to have expressed interest in the Morpheus character during the series’ long journey on Netflix. : Michael Jackson wanted that role too, and offered to play it.

“By 1996, I was being taken to Warners, where the then-president of Warner Bros. sat me down and told me that Michael Jackson had phoned him the day before and asked him if he could star as Morpheus in The Sandman,” Gaiman revealed. 

“So, there was a lot of interest in this, and they knew that it was one of the Crown Jewels, and what did I think? And I was like, ‘Ooh.’” 

Jackson and Gordon-Levitt never actually got the role, but Gaiman realized that finding the right Morpheus wasn’t as easy as he originally thought when casting for the Netflix show.

“I was like, ‘It’s going to be so easy to cast! We just find, you know, an English-speaking actor with great cheekbones, there’s loads of them out there,’” he joked. “We saw, in the end, about 1500 Morpheus auditions.” 

Gaiman explained that Sturridge’s audition was the first of four auditions he received from Sandman’s casting director, Lucinda Syson. Of course, he immediately shortlisted the actor.

“I figured that, at the end of a couple of weeks, we’d have a shortlist of five or ten just as good as him, just as right as him, just as – you could say the lines as well as him – and we didn’t. At the end of a week, we had Tom. At the end of two weeks, we had Tom. At the end of a month, we had Tom,” he stated. 

“At the end of six weeks, we said to Warner Bros: ‘It’s Tom, isn’t it?’” 

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Gaiman Ultimately Liked Sturridge for ‘The Sandman’

But when The Sandman production was postponed for six months because of the coronavirus pandemic, Gaiman stated that Netflix urged the team to “make sure you’ve seen everybody.” 

“We saw a lot of Morpheuses and what I learned from that Is that his lines are really hard to say,” Gaiman stated. 

“We saw some fabulous actors. It’s not like anybody was bad – there was a level, a bar, that they had to cross in order for us to be watching their video anyway – this was every great actor with great cheekbones on the planet, of all races, of all nationalities, of everything, and at the end, it was still Tom.” 

When asked what drew him into Sturridge’s performance, Gaiman said: “Mostly, I think it was the voice.” 

He added: “There was something about the way he delivered the lines, the thoughtful way he delivered the lines, the way he’d find the poetry and the beauty and the tune of the lines. It was wonderful. It was right.”

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